Family Relationships

Join other women in the sandwich generation - share ideas and solutions as you learn to nourish family relationships without starving yourself.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How I Knew I Needed a Vacation

In 2009 we featured Dr. Carol Orsborn on a Virtual Book Tour right here on the blog. We’ve known each other for years through our work online. But since Carol moved back to L.A. from New York, it’s been a treat to have lunch--no computers or iphones--just old fashioned face to face.

We’re delighted that Carol is our guest blogger today. With many of us about to travel before summer’s end, here are Carol’s recent reflections on her much needed vacation:

My husband Dan and I have been working much harder than we’d ever anticipated to be doing at age 64. And normally, I’m fine with this. But as the vision of a dream retirement–work and stress-free–fades with every down tick of the stock market, I paid heed to my spirit crying out for at least a moment’s taste of freedom. So a week ago, we headed 2 hours east of Los Angeles into the mountains of Big Bear.

As is my habit, I grabbed a spiritual book off my shelf to bring with me, eyes closed. So imagine my delight when it turned out to be poet May Sarton’s “Journal of a Solitude.” Our first morning there, in the summer camp air, it was as if May were writing the words in my own heart, each word a deliverance to sanity just to know that I was not alone in my yearning.

She writes: “For a long time now, every meeting with another human being has been a collision. I feel too much, sense too much, am exhausted by the reverberations after even the simplest conversation. But the deep collision is and has been with my unregenerate, tormenting, and tormented self. I have written every poem, every novel, for the same purpose—to find out what I think, to know where I stand. I am unable to become what I see. I feel like an inadequate machine, a machine that breaks down at crucial moments, grinds to a dreadful halt, ‘won’t go,’ or, even worse, explodes in some innocent person’s face.”

It was only a 3-day trip, but halfway through day 2, I could already feel my spirit responding to the sight of a mother duck paddling along with her 6 babies, my resilience as well as the meaning of life restored. My encounters with others were delightful. I started journaling again.

I’ve been back a couple of days now, and I’m still walking around with a silly grin on my face, having remembered why it is I do what I do, and having forgiven myself for the gap between vision and reality.

So that’s how I knew how badly I’d needed a vacation. Life transformed from a collision to a celebration. Thanks, Big Bear, for helping me to remember what life is really about.

Readers, if you’ve been able to get away this summer, send a photo and description of your most meaningful moments to We’d love to hear from you.

And thanks Carol, for reminding us of the benefits that can result from making a change. Carol is the founder of FierceWithAge, the Online Center for Spirituality and Aging. I’ve just completed her first virtual online retreat and I want to recommend it to you. Here’s how Carol describes it:

Passing beyond midlife initiates a new life stage. Knowing how determined you are to make the next stage of your life as vital as the decades that have come before, I recommend that you join in beginning August 6 for interactive, self-paced lessons delivered every weekday for three weeks directly to your inbox.

Learn more about the next retreat here. Carol, a wise and sensitive guide, is exploring uncharted territory in the field of aging. She also provides spiritual counseling to those who strive to stop being afraid of age, to instead become fierce with age.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Virtual Book Tour with Kathleen Toomey Jabs

Today we are pleased to welcome Kathleen Toomey Jabs to our blog for a discussion about her new book, Black Wings. Kathleen is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and also has an MFA in creative writing.  She has written an engrossing mystery set in the world of secret societies, military tradition, and deception. In her novel, Lieutenant Bridget Donovan unofficially investigates the crash of Audrey Richards, one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, who had been her former roommate when both attended the Academy. What she discovers forces Bridget to examine the concepts of honor, justice and the role of loyalty in pursuit of those ideals.  

NR:  Welcome to our blog today, Kathleen. Our readers are wondering how you came up with the story for Black Wings?

Kathleen:  Actually, it came to me: I had a vision of a female pilot crashing into the sea. I hate flying, but I’ve always been fascinated by aviators.  I worked on this novel for almost ten years, with some breaks.  Over time Audrey evolved as the mysterious central character, her astonishing career witnessed by her roommate, Bridget, who must investigate her death.  

NR:  Can you say a little about the title and what it refers to?

Kathleen:  The title is both a reference to a physical object and also a metaphor. In the Navy, people who are warfare qualified, such as aviators, wear a device on the pockets of their uniforms. In shorthand, the aviator device is referred to as “wings.” As Audrey pursues her dream of flying jets, sets of ominously black wings keep popping up in her path.

NR:  How did your experience at the Naval Academy add to the story?  Did you draw from real life experiences?

Kathleen:  I drew some of Bridget’s early adventures or mishaps from my own experiences. For example, she is originally from Boston and is not a particularly squared-away plebe when she arrives at the Academy. I’m also from Boston and I certainly had my share of culture shocks, especially during the first summer. Some found their way into the story, but I had to change them to fit with Bridget’s character, which is different from mine. As an officer, Bridget is part of the public affairs community. I’m also a public affairs officer or PAO.  I know that world so I had lots of real-life material to draw on, but I wasn't constrained by it.  I used the Naval Academy grounds and the Pentagon, but I also took a lot of liberties. This is fiction!

NR:  What was the most difficult part of writing Black Wings?

Kathleen:  It was hard for me to untangle the story.  I wrote and rewrote the novel at least four times to get the sequencing and chronology right and to make sure the plot was coherent.  I had so many things happening, and I wanted Audrey’s voice to be a part of it.  I had to find a way to get her point of view across.

 NR: Can you say something about the role of women in the military – the difficulties, the triumphs – to which your book speaks?

Kathleen:  The changes for women in the military have been pretty far-reaching since I first affiliated with the military. One of the reasons why I set the book in the early 1990’s was to capture the time of change, churn, and firsts. When I joined the Navy in 1984, many issues were still being worked out, many career fields were off limits, and there was a fair amount of resentment towards women. Today women are much more integrated and have more opportunities. Not everything is resolved now – there will always be some tension, but that’s not necessarily a negative thing. Right now, military women are deployed around the world, showing their competence and professionalism in incredibly difficult situations. It’s very inspiring.

NR:  How would you rate your experience as one of the first women midshipmen at Annapolis?  Did it prepare you for life, how did it influence you?

Kathleen:  I had a first-rate education at the Naval Academy. It wasn’t a fun place to be by any means, but I had some pretty amazing opportunities, such as a chance to study in Ireland, to become fluent in Russian, and to be in really small classrooms with amazing professors, particularly in the English department. I don’t know if I would’ve taken a creative writing class if I'd gone to a civilian college. Molly Tinsley (co-founder of FUZE, my publisher) was my professor and advisor. She nurtured my writing then and is still doing it now – 25 years later!  Another way the Academy influenced me was that I learned to be resilient, disciplined, and tenacious.  That certainly helped me stay with the novel for so long! 

NR: Thank you for joining us today, Kathleen, and telling us about Black Wings. Now, readers, feel free to join in the conversation and ask Kathleen any questions you may have about the story, her experiences balancing her military career and civilian life, the writing process - anything that may be on your mind. Here's your chance to get your questions answered by our author. Simply click on the "comments" link below - we look forward to hearing from you. 

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Join Our Virtual Book Tour Wednesday

Looking for a great summer beach read? Don't miss our monthly Virtual Book Tour tomorrow, July 25. Log on and meet author Kathleen Toomey Jabs who will join us for a Q & A about her book, Black Wings. Her novel invites us into a world of secret societies, military tradition, and deception as Lt. Bridget Donovan unofficially investigates the crash of one of the Navy's first female fighter pilots, who also happens to have been her former roommate when both attended the U.S. Naval Academy.

Kathleen, a graduate of the Naval Academy herself, has created a mystery praised as "a chilling, fact-paced and intelligent story, wonderfully written."  You'll be drawn in by her engaging book and enjoy the ride.

Come by tomorrow, explore our Q & A and ask Kathleen more questions about how to tell your own story. 

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reaching Out

In America, we've received another blow to the gut as we are reminded of how lives can change in an instant. The horrific shootings in Aurora, Colorado cast a pale over what was meant to be an entertaining evening respite. Over the weekend, information flowed in from the media, putting individual faces on the victims and outlining many heroic actions of people attempting to shield others from harm and helping those who were already injured.

Ironically, one young woman who was killed, Jessica Ghawi, had earlier survived another shooting at a mall in Canada and had blogged about her experience at that time, I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystanders' faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on Earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath. Her words are even more haunting now that she is dead.
As we face acts of senseless violence like these, we instinctively join together as a community to support one another. When it feels like our safety and security is threatened by an event like this, we seek a solid footing to ground us. We feel less overwhelmed and vulnerable when we experience the touch of another. 

You already know that, in caring for your own family, a hug and kiss can help reduce the pain – emotional and physical. And talking to those in your support system relieves some of your stress, anxiety and fear. So open up to your friends and family about your feelings and thoughts - they can validate your emotions and begin the healing process. And giving a helping hand to others does wonders - it provides aide to those in need and makes you feel useful too.

We may try to understand the reasons behind the attack in an attempt to gain more control over any future chaos. But while so-called pundits will offer explanations about the perpetrator, we really don't yet know what motivated him to conceive of and execute such a terrible plan. What we do know is that reaching out to comfort others in pain and to ask friends and family for support ourselves when we need it creates a resilient, caring community for all of us.

When those under stress join together to sustain each other, we all benefit. Through sharing our common concerns and life experiences we gain a sense of camaraderie, understanding and acceptance. Our mutual support helps diminish the feelings of isolation, anxiety and helplessness and brings a sense of control back into our lives.

In the future we can reflect on what this most recent terrible shooting means to our society but in the meantime, let's join hands with others, empowering us all, and declare our humanity and solidarity with the good in our world.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Caring for the Caregiver

If you're a member of the Sandwich Generation, you want to care for those you care about. But, at times, the emotional stress of nurturing multiple generations can be overwhelming. There are demands from every direction and you often have too little time, too little money, and too little help.

Photo courtesy of gbaku -

The best way to have patience and compassion for your aging parents and growing kids is learn to be patient and compassionate with yourself. Here are tips on how to do just that:

Balance for the caregiver. Find a happy medium between your responsibilities to others and to yourself. Take a break for a long walk, a nap or a yoga class. Spend time with a friend who makes you smile. Release tension by watching a sitcom or a funny movie. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins and a good mood helps you make better decisions.

Embrace change. As you set goals and move toward them, continue an active process of getting to know your true self. Write about your passions as well as what you really value, care about and want. An unused journal won't help make your dreams come true but a well loved and often used one might do just that.

Start a play revolution. Think about your fondest memories of playing as a child. There must be similar activities you could integrate into your life right now. How can you reconnect to your creative and playful side? And how far are you willing to go outside your comfort zone? Just imagine the potential benefits to your physical health, level of happiness and feelings of wellbeing.

Build resilience. Although you can't prevent what happens to you, you can have some control over how you handle it. Work on changing your mindset. If you reframe your pessimistic thoughts, you can turn anxiety into energy. A good attitude can make a difference, so look for the lessons in what you're going through.

This month, as we celebrate you, Sandwich Generation caregivers, try to love yourself. If you don’t feel that you have control over your life, set limits that work for you. And let others lend a helping hand and give back some of the love you deserve.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 16, 2012

Have Some ‘Catch-up’ with Your Sandwich Generation

July is Sandwich Generation month. According to a 2011 report from the Pew Research center, 30 million Americans are unpaid care-givers for their aging parents. And many of them are still raising children or supporting a boomerang kid.

Photo courtesy of social media arts -

If you’re a member of the Sandwich Generation, you know that there's a lot to chew on. When your secretary says there’s a nurse on the line, do you wonder if it’s the school or the cardiac care unit? It can be a struggle when you’re worried about your children, your folks, and how you're going to pay for it all.

This month, when we honor those sandwiched between growing kids and parents in decline, it’s the perfect time to play catch-up with yourself. You can create new scripts instead of resorting to old thought patterns that bring you down. Here are 7 ideas that can help change your perspective and your quality of life:

Attend to your needs. Let frustration, exhaustion, or guilt wash over you but try not to give in to them. As you assume greater responsibility for your parents, make nurturing yourself a priority. If you’re feeling centered when your teens are pushing the limits, you’re better able to meet the challenges. You deserve to take better care of your emotional self.

Release emotions. If you have pent up feelings about particular family members, writing can be cathartic. It helps you regulate negative emotions and savor positive ones. Let go of judgment and you'll open up to a deeper, more expressive experience. Read between the lines of your journal and trust what you discover - ways to resolve conflict, to gain closure, to find inner strength.

Seek solitude. Set limits by saying 'no' to others and 'yes' to yourself. A physical place with little opportunity for distraction will free up your thoughts. Try not to worry about mistakes from the past or what the future will bring. Carve out quiet time each day and discover what brings you peace of mind.

We want to hear from you - tell us about your greatest challenges and how you're managing them. And please log on again on Wednesday for more practical tips about nourishing your family without staving yourself.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

TomKat Has Split But You Can Stay Together

The statistics remain grim: one in every two marriages continue to end in divorce. The speculation is that knowing these figures, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes agreed to a very specific prenuptial agreement. Maybe that's why TomKat was able to come to a divorce agreement so quickly. But given that you likely had other things on your mind before the wedding, let's turn the tables on the celebrities and give our attention to preserving our own intimate relationships.

If you're a Sandwiched Boomer your energies may often be sapped by your responsibilities to career, growing kids and aging parents – so reconnecting with your partner may take second place. Here are some more tips to reaffirm that intimate relationship and make yourselves the stars of your own romantic comedy:

Talk. Often. And make it real communication as you open up and honestly share your needs and desires. Use your active listening skills and send I-messages without criticizing your partner. You'll be building a strong foundation of trust and caring as you do.

Be willing to apologize. When you've made an error, you don't have to be defensive about it. Take personal responsibility for your bad behavior and be genuine when you say, I'm sorry.

Work hard to forgive. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes. Your partner may have done something that ended up hurting you without meaning to. When you let go of anger and resentment, it leads to a more positive attitude for both of you.

Fight fair. Provide a safe environment as you both avoid threatening behavior like name-calling and blaming your partner's character or personality. Be empathic and look at the issue from your partner's perspective. That makes it easier to cooperate, look for solutions and reconcile.

Resolve hot button issues or put them to rest. Use conflict resolution to reduce the stress between you so you can be more flexible and work towards a compromise. If necessary, allow yourselves to 'agree to disagree' on certain topics and then take them off the table.

Recall why you fell in love. Remember and focus on your partner's positive qualities. Compliment your partner freely and let him or her know how much you care. Bring back the romance in your relationship and create real intimacy.

When you invest in your partnership, your behavior will reflect this deep commitment. You'll make time for your relationship just as you would for any valuable asset. And you'll reap valuable dividends in well-being that won't be taxed no matter what changes occur in the codes.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, July 09, 2012

What Lessons Can We Take from the TomKat Split?

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are back in the news – not for Tom's newest film or Katie's latest shopping spree or even the size of Suri's "high" heels, but because of their divorce proceedings. Will this become just more summer beach reading for the rest of us or can we put our own close relationships in the spotlight and work on improving them? While there's been intense speculation about what has actually gone on between the celebrity couple, we don't really need to know the reason for the breakup of their marriage to focus on improving our own loving partnerships.

With summer weddings and anniversaries coming up – mine is later this week! – here are some tips for strengthening your own intimate relationship:

Respect each other. While your views may be different, you don't have to agree with each other to value your partner's opinions. When you understand where he or she is coming from, you're more likely to appreciate their position. Even Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin, political consultants coming from beliefs 180 degrees apart, have been married for close to 20 years and are still going strong.

Make time for being together. Connect often for shared experiences and activities – going out for dinner, taking long walks through the neighborhood, attending a class in wine-tasting, couple's dancing or photography. Regularly set aside time for special activities together, either at home or away. Take turns planning a date night that will remind you both of why you fell in love.

Allow for your own space. Recognize that you don't have to share all of your interests and that you each have a right to pursue your own passions. Maintain your set of individual friends and activities - a writing workshop, a weekly sports game, volunteering at a soup kitchen, book club. Venturing out independently makes your reconnection all the more interesting and exciting. And if one of you is an introvert who feels energized by being alone, allow for that distancing time as well.

Have fun. Free yourselves to be playful and affectionate together. You'll notice that touch has healing qualities for both of you. As you engage with each other, the stress of the rest of the world fades into the background. Let yourselves be kids again and enjoy bringing spontaneity and laughter back into your relationship.

Resolve to incorporate these steps into your intimate relationship and look for more tips on Wednesday to help you avoid the pitfalls of the TomKat relationship.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, July 06, 2012

Send Your Kids to Camp and Improve Your Marriage

Does the thought of sleep-away camp stir up anxiety for your children and for you? Of course, there are unknowns in any unfamiliar situation. Yet camp is a great opportunity for kids to develop their interests, confidence and independence.

And believe it or not, sleep-away camp can be the best thing for your marriage. As a member of the sandwich generation, caring for parents growing older and kids growing up, your life is more than full. I bet it’s been quite a while since you had meaningful time alone with your partner. So here are four tips that can help you relax into the comfort of a totally adult relationship:

Invest in each other. When you’re managing an active family and a demanding career, your marriage often ends up on the back burner. Now you can focus on your relationship, just as you would any valuable asset. You’ll feel treasured as the emotional dividends grow.

Give the gift of time. Take turns planning activities you'll both enjoy. Rent a bicycle built for two, walk on the beach or take a hike in the woods. Sneak away from work and meet at a museum or enjoy a picnic in the park. Surprise each other and be spontaneous with your affection.

Act like kids and laugh a lot. When the kids are around, all the organizing, cooking and laundry add to your stress. Let off steam, have fun and be playful. It’ll remind you about who you are at the core and why you fell in love.

Create romance and intimacy. If this has been on your 'to do' list for a long time, here's your chance to make it happen. No need to make love on the run. Turn on the music, light candles and share that bottle of wine you've been saving for a special occasion.

Time flies--before you know it, your campers will be home, talking about new friends and the good times they had. Throughout the school year, remember to savor the memories of your brief second honeymoon. And save your mad money to hold a place for them in camp next summer.

Labels: , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

July 4th and Your Independence

On July 4th, we celebrate the birth of our nation and freedom. Wherever you are and whoever you're with, a picnic and barbecue is most likely the order of the day.

We're now six months into 2012. Even if your new year's resolution was to lose weight, eating traditional food is a mainstay of Independence Day. Although setting goals for yourself is great, make sure they're realistic and remember you're the one in charge. Don't see today as falling off the wagon.

Instead, embrace your independence.

Enjoy the food, fun and fireworks--you can kick-start your healthy eating plan tomorrow. Let the celebration and fireworks begin!

Labels: , , , , , , ,